Phil Jackson is always in the conversation as one of the greatest coaches of all-time. Knicks fans are quite familiar with his six titles with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, and he followed that up by coaching Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant to a three-peat. That same decade, Jackson coached the afro-less Bryant-led Lakers to two more championships. What’s always forgotten is his two rings as a player with the New York Knicks. Once a Knick, always a Knicks, and now a Knick again.
As a player, Jackson had some offensive deficiencies, but worked hard defensively and had a limitless basketball IQ. His constant effort easily made him a fan favorite in New York. Jackson played 12 years in the NBA, including a full decade with the Knicks. He was a key off the bench component on the 1973 championship team, but contrary to common belief, never actually played in the 1969-70 campaign, when New York won it’s first title. However, legendary coach Red Holzman took such a liking to Jackson that he kept him around the team all season, and included him on the postseason roster.
After the championship era, some key starters retired, opening a spot up for Phil to succeed. His best statistical seasons came in 1973-74 and 1974-75, when he combined to average 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. The only time he played a full 82 games in his career came in the 1973-74 campaign.
Jackson ended his Knicks career with averages of 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 17.7 minutes per night. He went on to play across the Hudson River for Nets for two seasons before retiring as a player for good. The rest is history.